Saturday, January 28, 2006

The ballot box is mightier than the sword

The World is just about coming to terms with the events of the last few days in Palestine.. the shockwaves are still rippling through the Middle East and the rest of the World...
The Palestinian Legislative Council elections have demonstrated the frustration and despair amongst the Palestinians. The masses have voted overwhelmingly against the status quo, and went for Hamas.. largely because the alternatives were so pathetic.. Dispossessed, oppressed and disenfranchised, people will always shift to the most extreme option, with little regard to the details of the manifesto or policies proposed by that option.. Democracy, the US must now realize, is a double-edged sword..
The reaction to the results also demonstrated the duplicity of the Western media and Western government.. what I often refer to as 'the prostitution of the Western press'.. What is 'extremism' on the Arab side becomes suddenly 'adherence to principles' on the Israeli side.. 'Terrorism' is what the Palestinians practice, but it 's ‘defending the right for existence’ if carried out by the Israelis..
I have just watched the Press Conference held by Khaled Mash’al, Head of the Political Office (to avoid terms like ‘Political Bureau’, as it is too reminiscent of Communist Russia!!..). I must say, I am impressed by his charisma, apparent open-mindedness, and call for pluralism and inclusiveness of all Palestinian factions. Only time will tell how true to his words the organization is going to be.. I would say, give the man a chance.. I do hope that Israel, the West, and Arab countries alike will demonstrate the same levels of open-mindedness.. However, I am rather pessimistic, and previous experiences have always brought out the old cynic in me...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A glimpse of the Levantine Dreamhouse

Abu Kareem,
I have just paid a visit to your blog, which I found genuinely interesting..
You said in your latest post ( lot of what goes in my own mind about the intricate relationship between Syria and Lebanon, and the Syrian People and the Lebanese People.. (I tried to leave some comments, but could not find a way to do it.. Am I missing some obvious way to do that?.. Is it just my lack of experience in blogging etiquette?..)
I think the large majority of the Syrian people empathize with the Lebanese people on the issue of the hardship they endured under the oppressive boot of the Syrian army and mukhabarat.. After all, as you said, who better to empathize with a sufferer than a fellow-sufferer?.. (I personally felt deeply embarrassed and humiliated when the Syrian Constitution was amended in less than 15 minutes to to pave the way for Bashar Assad to succeed his father, creating the first 'hereditary republic' in the modern Arab history.. I felt exactly the same embarrassment and humiliation when the Lebanese Constitution was manipulated and meddled with, to allow that unbelievable folly of extending the tenure of President Lahoud)..
In fact, I suspect that quite a few Syrians today secretly envy the Lebanese, now that they do not have to suffer the kind of oppression that the Syrians still endure.. (I fully appreciate that Lebanon has its own set of very complicated and un-enviable problems, though!..)
I lived in Beirut in the early eighties (1980-1983), and lived through some of the worst episodes of the Lebanese Civil War.. While I do not, in any way, want to belittle the suffering of Lebanon and the Lebanese at the hands of outside forces (wherever they came from), I too could not help but feel that the Lebanese were always more than happy to find faults in others and forget their own.. they always saw their problems as a result of 'external forces'.. never their own doing..
Like you, I was not at all surprised by the way events turned in Lebanon.. I think everything that is going on today, including the rampant xenophobia (or should I say 'Syriophobia'?..) is understandable (However, that is not to say it is acceptable or justified)..
While I can understand why some Lebanese harbour so much hatred towards everything Syrian, I do wish they can differentiate between the true oppressor and fellow-oppressed.. I do wish they would look at their own shortcomings, in order to start to address them..
But more than anything, I wish I would live to see the day when the Syrian people are free of oppression, and are allowed to achieve their full potential...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Pity The Nation

I was tidying up my office this afternoon. I came across a sheet of paper on which I had, a while ago, printed up this poem by Khalil Gibran, from his book, 'The Garden of The Prophet'..
How true it is today, as it was seventy years ago..

Pity The Nation

”Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
”Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own winepress.
”Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
”Pity the nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.
”Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.
”Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
”Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings once again.
”Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.
”Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Garden Of The Prophet

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Eid Al-Adha

So, it is Eid al-Adha today..
I went to the local mosque with my son this morning.. it is a small terraced house converted to a mosque.. a far cry from the grandeur and the splendor of the Great Ommayyad Mosque in Damascus..
I listened to the Khutba, half in Arabic, and half in Urdu (which I do not understand at all).. I remembered with affection listening to the beautiful Khutba's at Salat el Eid in Damascus, and so wished my son could experience those serene feelings.. As a child, I could hear the chants of 'Allah u-akbar, Allah u-kbar, Allah u-akbar.. Walillahil hamd..' streaming out of the Rawdah mosque near our house, as I make my way hurriedly to the mosque.. I must get there early to find a place indoors.. otherwise I might get my new Eid outfit soaked through if it rains while I am standing in the outer court.. Happy days, eh..
Over here, Eid is reduced to a quick exchange of good wishes outside the make-shift (and make-believe) mosque, before rushing off back to work.. The lucky ones (and the more organized ones) would have remembered to book a day of Annual Leave for today... Never mind.. We are meeting up with some friends tonight for some scrumptious Middle Eastern feast prepared lovingly by my wife and her friends.. It will go some way to make up for having to celebrate Eid away from home..
Happy Eid to all of you and your Families, wherever you are..

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A new kid on the Blog

I am the Syrian Brit.. and this is my blog.. I want it as a forum for all Syrian ex-pats, living away from home.. I welcome postings from anybody. However, I am particularly interested in hearing from fellow countrymen (and women) living in the UK..
As you may well have guessed, I am very new to the game of blogging.. virtually a 'virgin blogger', if such a thing exists!..
I have been living in the United Kingdom since 1985.. 'Longer than I care to remember' is my stock answer to the question 'How long have you been in England?'...
Don't get me wrong.. I am not complaining.. I love England.. England has been good to me, and has given me a home, security and peace of mind, and professional contentment.. And in return, even if I say so myself, I have been good to her, in my own way, through my hard work, achievements and professionalism..
Nevertheless, there is no place like home.. and home is where the heart is.. My heart is, and will always be, in the narrow winding streets of Old Damascus.. in the cacophony of its bazaars and the fantastic chaos that rules its existence.. My love for the Old Country can happily co-habit with my appreciation and gratitude for the one that I live in..
I would be delighted to hear from anybody about their experiences, good or bad, of living away from home..